Advent Calendar

The Towns of Two Halves Countdown to Christmas featured 24 doors behind which lurked noteworthy tourist attractions in the vicinity of the 92 league clubs:

1 Dec The street art known as Out of Order, by David Mach, is on Old London Road about half a mile from where AFC Wimbledon play in Kingston. The artist proposed that the vertical box on the end be wired up so that people could use it to make phone calls. It’s on p345 of the book.

2 Dec The Newcastle ‘coat’ was a punishment for drunkards in the Stuart period – they were made to wear a barrel around the town. The temptation to push them over and see how far they’d roll must have been irresistible. It’s at the Discovery Centre, Newcastle, and on p214 of Towns of Two Halves.
3 Dec Oxford’s Pitt Rivers Museum of anthropology and ethnology contains many charms, not least of which is the display of Tail & Buttock Ornaments. It’s an informal treasure house laid out ‘as though someone has recently returned from a distant and exotic car-boot sale and turned out the proceeds for an impromptu police inspection’. It’s on p244.

4 Dec Salvador Dali’s Mae West Lips sofa is a masterpiece of Pop Art created a quarter of a century before pop. You can see it (them?) at the Brighton Museum & Art Gallery, and much more besides. See townsof2halves.co.uk/home/services/brighton/.
5 Dec Very few are the football fans who wouldn’t have reached for the Baldwin’s Nervous Pills at one time or another. ‘Cures nervousness, irritability of temper, fear, dread, neuralgia, hysteria, disturbed sleep, melancholy, insomnia and all nerve pains and diseases,’ the advertising proclaimed. The poster in the Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising, on Ladbroke Grove, near QPR, dates from about 1900. You can still buy a reproduction of the poster for £7.49p – the pills themselves, 120 years ago, would have set you back less than 14p a box. P264 of the book.
6 Dec Marco the European Brown Bear came to Rotherham’s Clifton Park on a free transfer from Warwickshire County Council. “As part of the school loans service for almost 20 years, Marco must appear in the nightmares of a generation of Rotherham schoolchildren.” P276 of Towns of Two Halves.
7 Dec The Swindon ‘crocodile’, probably a gharial, is one of the main attractions at Swindon Museum & Art Gallery (p317).

8 Dec This was to have been from Fountain 17, Hull’s homage to Marcel Duchamp as part of the City of Culture year (the picture here is Paul Collinson’s Caspar David Friedrich bowl). But after a short visit to Stoke, Fountain 17 closed and the exhibits were auctioned off. So the ‘window’ reveals a truly extraordinary urinal in Barnsley, fully appreciated on p21.

9 Dec Alan Wilson’s life-size bronze statues decorate the approach to Blackburn’s bus/train interchange. The child has dropped a teddy; grandma appears in a hurry to catch a bus. Just over 20 years old, they were re-sited as part of the 2015 Cathedral Quarter redevelopment.

10 Dec The Fan Museum, in Greenwich, has a spectacular variety of fans for the fan visiting Charlton or Millwall to admire. The feathered ones aren’t all associated with burlesque in the modern sense; many are Victorian, which by coincidence is how far back football fandom goes. There’s more at http://townsof2halves.co.uk/home/services/charlton/.

11 Dec The Derby Arboretum supposedly provides the model for New York City’s Central Park and was England’s first landscaped public park when it opened in 1840. There’s more on p117.
12 Dec The Lincoln engineering firm William Foster& Co built the first military tanks, of which one is on display at the Museum of Lincolnshire Life. They’re called ‘tanks’, by the way, because the prototypes were referred to as ‘water carriers’ for reasons of security: hence ‘water tanks’ and eventually ‘tanks’. Read more on pp170-171.
13 Dec All over Morecambe there are sculptures of birds – mainly but not exclusively seabirds – on plinths, pedestals and pillars. Many are stylised to a greater or lesser degree, some are more naturalistic, and all are great fun and an adornment to the town.
14 Dec Robert Cadman’s death in February 1740 ended the Golden Age of Flying, during which ‘flying men’ ascended high places and rapidly descended along a rope, on a grooved wooden breastplate. Cadman, from Shropshire, is honoured in the Shrewsbury chapter on p289.


15 Dec Accrington is the home of the Ewbank carpet-sweeper, Terylene and NORI, the hardest brick in the building world. If you go, don’t miss the Tiffany display at the Haworth Gallery.


16 Dec The National Football Museum in Manchester has a fine cafeteria but how can Pukka Pies not be on the menu? More on p185.
17 Dec Newport has plenty to offer on its own account, but on the outskirts is the town of Caerleon, one of the most interesting, varied and complete Roman sites in the country. Both Newport and Caerleon are in the book, from p217.
18 Dec The magnificent Musical Museum in Brentford (p44) is best enjoyed in a guided tour, culminating in a performance of the Mighty Wurlitzer.
19 Dec ‘The stones have a louche, malingering air, as though waiting for a sculptor to turn them into something recognisable.’ This is the village of Avebury, where you can wander freely among standing stones. It’s only a small diversion from a game at either of the Bristol clubs. It’s on p53 in the book.

20 Dec It used to be the National Media Museum in Bradford; now it’s the National Science & Media Museum… You might still find Tony Ray-Jones’ photographic record of an English way of life he feared would be Americanised and disappear. P39 of the book.

21 Dec There’s a gallery in Middlesbrough’s Dorman Museum devoted to H2O, and set into the floor is an interactive pond-screen. When you step on it, fish flee and water ripples. Magic. I thought I was witnessing an assisted suicide when two people pushed their friend in his wheelchair on to it. See p199.
22 Dec The Winter Gardens, Museum and Art Gallery in Sunderland is a building of many wonders, not least the recreation of a tropical rain forest amid the foliage of which dinosaurs lurk. Close by, in a smaller tank, don’t miss the real axolotl. This is all on p307 of Towns of Two Halves.
23 Dec Close to Northampton town centre is Delapré Abbey, which has its fair share of ghost stories – plus plenty to enjoy in the present day. On p225: ‘The Grey Lady is said to be a nun restlessly searching the house for the wounded soldier she nursed and fell in love with.’
24 Dec In Huddersfield’s Art Gallery there’s a Henry Moore piece called Falling Warrior which a writer to the local paper proposed should be renamed Huddersfield Rate-Payer, according to the accompanying note. It is on p148 of the book. Happy New Year!

Short of a birthday present for your football-loving other half? Throw in Towns of Two Halves, £8 +P&P from Amazon.

Christmas Markets

Lincoln Christmas Market, 6-9 Dec

Over the next few weeks – into 2019, in some cases – the towns and cities you visit for away games will have special seasonal attractions. Here’s a list of Christmas markets and similar events around the football league. If I’ve missed any, please leave a comment and I’ll update the post:

Birmingham  15 Nov-23 Dec Frankfurt Christmas Market
Blackburn  29 Nov-23 Dec Blackburn
Bournemouth  16 Nov-2 Jan Bournemouth Alpine Market
Bradford Victorian Christmas Market  17/18 Nov Bradford
Bristol  9 Nov-23 Dec Bristol
Cambridge  17 Nov-6 Jan North Pole Festival
Cardiff  15 Nov-23 Dec Cardiff

Cheltenham, 22 Nov-15 Dec

Cheltenham  22 Nov-15 Dec Cheltenham
Exeter  15 Nov-16 Dec  Exeter
Leeds  9 Nov-22 Dec Christkindelmarkt
Liverpool  16 Nov-23 Dec Liverpool
London  Clapham Common  15 Nov-23 Dec Winterville
Hyde Park  23 Nov-6 Jan Winter Wonderland
Southbank  9 Nov-6 Jan Southbank Winter
Manchester  9 Nov-23 Dec Manchester Christmas Markets
Newcastle  16 Nov-16 Dec Newcastle
Norwich  7-23 Dec Norwich
Nottingham  15 Nov-31 Dec Winter Wonderland
Oxford  7-22 Dec Oxford City
23 Nov-16 Dec Blenheim Palace
Plymouth  29 Nov-16 Dec Plymouth
Portsmouth  10 Nov-24 Dec Portsmouth
Sheffield  15 Nov-24 Dec Sheffield Christmas Markets
Southampton  15 Nov-23 Dec Southampton Christmas Festival
Stoke 10 Nov-6 Jan Magical Wedgewood Christmas
Swansea  16 Nov-6 Jan Waterfront Winterland
Wimbledon  15 Nov-31 Dec Kingston Christmas Market

AFC Fylde

Mill Farm: curvaceous, for a football stadium

If AFC Fylde make it into the Football League, Nailsworth (home of Forest Green Rovers) will no longer be the smallest town with such a distinction. The club’s ground, Mill Farm, is just outside the small towns of Kirkham and Wesham. They are paired on the railway station sign-boards and blend into one another on Station Road. Kirkham, with a population of about 7,200, is about twice as big as Wesham.

That does not mean, though, that there’s not much to do or to look at in the vicinity of AFC Fylde. On the contrary: there’s a clue in the name. The Fylde peninsula is a considerable, perhaps notorious tourist hotspot.

St Annes Pier: bright and breezy

It’s barely eight miles from Mill Farm to the fleshpots of Blackpool. Within about five miles are the more genteel charms of Lytham, and between those two is the middlingly breezy St Annes-on-Sea. Only a mile or two down the road is Wrea Green, where cricket is played during the summer on an authentically English village green, with a fine pub on the corner, and a pond.

Lytham has a windmill and associated seasonal Windmill Museum. Lytham Heritage Centre holds exhibitions (Lancashire at War, 1914-18, until 9 December), and there’s a small museum at the Old Lytham Lifeboat House.

Even closer to Kirkham & Wesham is Wild Discovery, a kind of zoo populated by mainly small but exotic mammals, birds and reptiles, amphibians and insects. It puts on a regular programme of talks and activities, and is more about education and experience than the gawping of a conventional zoo.

Kirkham itself seems to be the sort of place that was once quite something. At one time it had 11 mills, not to mention a race-course. According to one account it was the first settled place in the Fylde in prehistory, but the evidence – an elk with two harpoons embedded in it – sounds more like Japanese whalers blown seriously off course and having a pop at anything that moved.

The town now is notable for small places to stop and watch the world, such as it is, go by. One has a display case containing Kirkham’s last loom. Another records the town’s perennial success in floral competitions, so regular that you’d wonder whether everywhere else has given up. And by the roundabout where the road to Wesham turns off, a leafy arbour suggests the retreat Coronation Street’s scriptwriters have recently discovered to give the characters somewhere to go where they don’t have to be seen boozing or gorging themselves. Wesham has what may be the nation’s last off-licence.

AFC Fylde 1 Chesterfield 3
20 October 2018

Armistice Anniversary

The 100th anniversary of Armistice Day is less than a week away. If you’re travelling to a match this weekend, here are some of the places that might be appropriate for a few moments of quiet reflection.

There are regimental museums in
Bury Fusilier Museum (Dover Athletic fans may be in Bury on Saturday 10 November)
Gillingham Royal Engineers Museum (Hartlepool are at Gillingham on 10 Nov)
London Fusilier Museum at the Tower of London, Guards Museum at Wellington Barracks, Honourable Artillery Company at Armoury House by appointment, Household Cavalry at Horse Guards
Norwich Royal Norfolk Regimental Museum
(Millwall on 10 Nov)
Preston Lancashire Infantry Museum

City, town and county museums have regimental galleries in
Accrington Accrington Pals, East Lancashire Regiment (Colchester on 10 Nov)
Cardiff Firing Line: Museum of the Welsh Soldier (Brighton on 10 Nov)
Carlisle Cumbria County Infantry Regiment Derby 9th/12th Royal Lancers Museum (Aston Villa on 10 Nov)
Doncaster Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry Museum
Fleetwood Royal Naval Patrol Service
Leicester Royal Leicestershire Regiment Museum (Burnley on 10 Nov)
Lincoln Royal Lincolnshire Regiment (Northampton Town on 10 Nov)
Liverpool The King’s Regiment (Fulham on 11 Nov)
Luton Bedfordshire & Hertfordshire Regiment (Wycombe Wanderers on 10 Nov)
Newcastle Light Dragoons & Northumberland Hussars (Bournemouth on 10 Nov)
Northampton Northamptonshire Regiment
Nottingham The Museum of the Mercian Regiment is temporarily in Mansfield Museum until 24 Nov (Stoke at Forest on 10 Nov; Charlton at Mansfield on 11 Nov)
Rotherham York & Lancaster Regiment
Shrewsbury Shropshire Regimental Museum (Salford City on 11 Nov)

Other branches of the Armed Forces
Hendon RAF Museum
Plymouth Devonport Naval Heritage Centre (Stevenage on 10 Nov)
Portsmouth National Museum of the Royal Navy

Displays
There will be displays and events scheduled all over the country. Those below are the ones I’m aware of. Please add any you know of in a Comment and I’ll update the post.
Burnley Towneley Hall pictured right
Derby Museum & Art Gallery Postcards from the Front, and WWI stories (see above)
Fleetwood (Euston Gardens) (above)
Huddersfield Tolson Museum). The museum itself was donated to the people of Huddersfield in memory of the owner’s two nephews who died in WWI (West Ham on 10 Nov)
Rochdale Touchstones (Leicester U-21 on 6 Nov, Gateshead on 10 Nov).

Events
To 31 Mar 2019
London The Imperial War Museum’s Making a New World is a series of exhibitions, music, performance and public debates.

To 31 Jan 2019
Doncaster The Road to Victory exhibition at Doncaster Museum & Art Gallery follows the fortunes of Yorkshire soldiers.
Leeds Goodbye to All That? Legacies of WWI.

To 6 Jan
Colchester Colchester in the First World War at Colchester Castle Museum

To 25 Nov
Manchester Poppies: Wave Wave and Weeping Window are from the original concept by artist Paul Cummins and installation designed by Tom Piper.

To 17 Nov
Leeds There but not There Leeds Minster presents displays and installations around the church.

9-17 Nov
Norwich All Fades to Silence Photography, installation and writing at the Crypt Gallery, Norwich.

To 11 Nov
Colchester War, Art & Reconciliation at the The Minories Galleries.

11 Nov
Blackpool, Liverpool (Formby), Sunderland (Roker), Swansea Pages of the Sea Communities will gather on beaches around the country to say Thank You and Goodbye to the men and women who left these shores.
London Goodbye to all That at Southwark Playhouse.

11 Nov
Manchester Breaking the Silence Alongside Manchester-based music charity Brighter Sound, IWM North will mark 100 years of Remembrance with a sonic performance from young musicians in Manchester; at 11.06am, 12.10pm and 1.10pm.

If you know of other events or exhibitions, please leave a Comment and I’ll update the post.

Haunted Houses


For many of us, an away win is abnormal verging on the paranormal. As with most paranormal experiences, it’s far from assured. Same thing with haunted houses; but it’s nearly Halloween, and you never know…

While I was putting together Towns of Two Halves I occasionally asked the volunteer attendants about ghosts in the halls and houses where they maintained their vigils. Here, for fans traveling to games on the weekend of 27/28 October, are the places to visit if you want to feel a light chill down your spine.

Bradford City fans going to Gillingham: a White Lady frequents the ruins of nearby Rochester Castle.

Bristol Rovers fans: Cannon Hall Park, a few miles west of Barnsley, has multiple reports of ghosts.

Hull City, at Bolton this weekend: an entire web-page is devoted to the ghosts of Smithills Hall, northwest of the town centre.

Oldham Athletic, at Northampton: it was a nightmare last season, but you could ease the pain with a visit to Delapré Abbey to look for the Grey Lady.

Swindon Town, at Notts County: the National Justice Museum in Nottingham is said to harbour some uneasy souls. Guilty consciences, probably.

This post is compiled from material published and indexed in Towns of Two Halves. Order your copy for £8 +P&P from Amazon to enhance your enjoyment of away games in ways you might never have thought about.

A chance of a ghost

Halloween steam in Preston (pic by Gary Severn)

Halloween is on the horizon and this weekend’s fixtures (27/28 Oct) may take you somewhere with paranormal possibilities:

Barnsley (for Bristol Rovers) has a Pumpkin Festival at Cannon Hall Farm.

In Birmingham (for Sheffield Wednesday at Blues, Blackburn at West Bromwich, Wycombe at Walsall) the options are at Visit Birmingham.

Brighton (for Wolves) calls itself “one of the spookiest cities in the country”.

For Bristol (Stoke at Bristol City) go to Visit Bristol.

Burton (where the visitors are Peterborough): the National Forest Adventure Farm has Screamfest.

Cambridge (for Macclesfield Town) has Halloween Tours.

Colchester (for Lincoln City fans) has a genuine oddity: in The Cells, there’s the American Horror Lobster dinner.

Exeter (for Forest Green Rovers) has Witches & Wizards Tours.

For Leeds (where Forest play) family supporters should look at Yorkshire Tots.

Liverpool (for Cardiff, and Crawley at Tranmere) pushes the boat out at Visit Liverpool.

In London (for Bournemouth at Fulham, Ipswich at Millwall, Villa at QPR on Friday, Luton at AFC Wimbledon) there’s a Halloween Bus Tour among other events.

Nottingham (for Swindon at County) has a Mini-fest on the Old Market Square.

Preston (for Rotherham United fans and steam railway enthusiasts) offers Halloween Spooky Trains on Ribble Steam Railway.

Stoke (for Bury at Port Vale) has various things going on at Trentham.

Swansea (for Reading fans) has Spooks in the City.

Playing on the break

An international break: ‘The weekend yawns vacantly in front of you. What are you going to do on Saturday afternoon? How can you get out of going shopping?’

Towns of Two Halves might have been written with international breaks in mind. You watch England on the box on Friday night, and then the weekend yawns vacantly in front of you. What are you going to do on Saturday afternoon? How can you get out of going shopping?

The answer lies in Football Tourism. It even sounds respectable. All it means is “going somewhere you wouldn’t normally go, to have a look round and watch a match”. It’s up to you how much gawping you do, and where, but you’re sure to find something unusual and you might actually look forward to the next international break.

Mancunians have Doncaster Rovers at Rochdale, a town that offers a heritage divi; a little further away, Crewe Alex against Bury should appeal to rail enthusiasts. In Northeast Lancs, ‎Accrington Stanley host Bradford and the Haworth Gallery hosts Europe’s largest collection of Tiffany glass.

For Londoners the options are very limited. You probably won’t get into Kingstonians’ snug ground where AFC Wimbledon play Portsmouth, but an afternoon in Kingston is never a bad idea. Go to see where Saxon kings were crowned; admire some wacky street art; enjoy the river.

Newport County fly the flag in South Wales, with Stevenage the visitors; allow plenty of time for the Roman camp at Caerleon, the Chartist memorials, the ceramics and the Transporter Bridge.

Fans living in East Anglia have a choice. Cambridge United are at home to MK Dons, and the city has more weird and wonderful diversions than you could shake a stick at; Colchester, home to a zoo, Roman history and Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, will also welcome Crawley Town on Saturday.

From the East Riding head south to Scunthorpe for the Peterborough clash and a zoo, a Pink Pig Farm and other attractions. In the fictional South Riding, Barnsley are at home to Luton (noon kick-off); take the kids to Cannon Hall Farm or, in the town centre, Experience Barnsley.

In the East Midlands, Burton Albion play Bristol Rovers and you might sniff out the National Brewery Centre. Mansfield’s kick-off against Grimsby is at 1pm, so you will hardly have time for Lord Byron’s gaff, a pit and country park, and a fine local museum. Forest Green are the visitors to Northampton, which has a treat for admirers of Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Notts County are at home to Oldham, and Nottingham itself has a variety of alternative attractions, from heritage to video games.

In the West Midlands, Coventry City play Wycombe Wanderers; the Cathedral is breathtaking, there’s always something on at the Herbert (a TS Eliot-related exhibition at the moment) and specialist museums cater for musicians and transport enthusiasts. Port Vale, where you can throw in all the Potteries have to offer, play Lincoln.

For more details on these and all other football towns, order Towns of Two Halves from info@townsof2halves.co.uk, £8.

Autumn colour

New England in the Fall isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. If you go a week early – and honestly, how can you know two months ahead of time what the right week will be? – it’s not that much different from Olde England in many respects, of which the colour of the foliage is one. No, the best you can do is to organise an itinerary with variations in latitude and altitude, to give those leaves every chance, book your flights and hotels and hope for the best.

Northern Maine at the end of September 2018: pretty enough, but not notably autumnal

If, then, Vermont’s Green Mountains remain doggedly green (as, for that matter, do the White Mountains of New Hampshire) there’s not much you can do about it. Enjoy the scenery, treat yourself to a long detour to Quebec City, take photographs of covered bridges, waterfalls and lighthouses… and come home with added resolve. Because here too is a way in which travelling to a football match can be a rewarding form of tourism.

The obvious ways to enjoy autumn colour in this context are:

Woodland Some clubs are surrounded by or adjacent to wooded hills – Forest Green Rovers and the Cotswolds, Wycombe Wanderers in the Chilterns, and several of the northern clubs especially on the eastern side of the Pennines. Nottingham Forest is a significant disappointment in this sense.

Derby Arboretum: the UK’s first landscaped public park

Arboretums A posh word for ‘park’ really, but the Latin for ‘tree’ should promise some colour at this time of year. Derby, Lincoln, Nottingham and Walsall have arboretums (arboreta?). Luton is close to the Chilterns where you’ll find Whipsnade Tree Cathedral just a few miles away. Forest Green, again, is not far from the extraordinary Westonbirt Arboretum.

Botanical Gardens Kew is next door to Brentford. In other places, the botanical gardens are a little further away from the football grounds – Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge, Leicester, Oxford and Shefffield. Norwich’s Plantation Garden is a special place, worth a mention and worth a visit.

Parks Many football teams play at Parks. The most promising name here must be Blackburn Rovers’ Ewood Park, but it might as well be called EByGum Park for all the wood involved. Some clubs, however, play in or adjacent to functioning parks: Aston Villa, Bournemouth, Fulham, and Plymouth for example.

Delapré Abbey, just outside Northampton’s town centre

Parkland This is subtly different. Parkland belongs to country houses. So Barnsley has Cannon Hall, Mansfield has Newstead Abbey and Northampton has Delapré (as well as the excellent Abington Park, which belongs in the previous category).

This is compiled from information recorded and indexed in Towns of Two Halves. Order your copy for from info@townsof2halves.co.uk £8 to enhance your enjoyment of away games in ways you might never have thought about.

Egypt around every corner

Bolton is the place to be for Egyptologists this autumn. On 22 September the Egyptology gallery of Bolton Museum will re-open with a full-size reproduction of the burial chamber of Thutmose III.
The first away fans to be able to treat themselves to this reconstruction of a site in the Valley of the Kings will be Derby County’s on 29 September. Blackburn Rovers are there on 6 October, followed by Nottingham Forest on 24 October and Hull City on 27 October.
But Bolton isn’t the only destination on the football league itinerary for Egyptian collections:
Brighton Museum & Art Gallery has two Egyptian galleries through the city’s association with noted Egyptologist Francis Llewellyn Griffith.
Derby Museum has two mummies (one partially unwrapped) and a number of grave objects.
Leicester New Walk Museum has a two refurbished Egyptian galleries re-opening on 20 October, when there will be family activities and three times as many artefacts as previously displayed.
Liverpool had an Egyptian Museum as long ago as 1852. Now its World Museum claims to have the “largest Ancient Egypt gallery outside the British Museum”.
Macclesfield’s West Park Museum houses the collection of Victorian thrill-seeker Marianne Brocklehurst, a voracious shopper as well as a skilled artist and engaging diary-keeper.
Manchester Museum’s collection includes objects that found their way up to Lancashire through the funding of Sir Flinders Petrie’s expeditions by industrialist Jesse Haworth
Norwich Castle has an Egyptian gallery stocked with artefacts donated by local mustard magnate Jeremiah Colman and author Henry Rider Haggard.
The Ashmolean Museum in Oxford has about 50,000 objects from Egypt and Sudan.
Rochdale’s Touchstones has a Heritage Gallery with plenty of Egyptian interest, much of it supplied indirectly by Sir Flinders Petrie, a pioneer of archaeology and Egyptology.
Swansea’s Egypt Centre celebrates its 20th anniversary this year.
The Museum of Wigan Life has an Egyptian section in which pride of place goes to a mask 3,500 years old.

All this information and more is in Towns of Two Halves. Order your copy from info@townsof2halves.co.uk